Wow, another great night of entertainment at the Woodlands Auditorium. This time I enjoyed the Hot Springs Village Concerts Association’s presentation of The Hit Men. Alongside me last night were the KVRE crew of Annie Dyer and Scotty Mack. The concert was a Mecca of hits from the 60's and 70's, just what Scotty Mack plays on his KVRE show. We were joined by my husband Lee, Annie’s husband Monty and the Dyer’s out of town guests. Every one of us had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the music of The Hit Men.
The Woodlands was chock o’ block full of bopping heads, smiling faces, snapping fingers, clapping hands and feet that couldn’t stay still in their confined spaces. Some audience members just couldn’t take it any longer and had to jump up and dance toward the end of the show. Oh, What a Night in so many ways.
The five Hit Men were Lee Shapiro, Gerry Polci, Jimmy Ryan, Larry Gates and Russ Velazquez. All five have been a part of famous groups, backed up famous musicians in concert and in the studio and have paid their dues performing boomer rock music since day one. These are the coolest group of grandpas on the planet. They are still fit, have the moves of the time and sound just like they did 40 years ago. What a walk down memory lane.
Lee Shapiro was one of Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons, part of the original performances of Oh, What a Night and Who Loves You. He was also one of Tommy James’ Shondells. Shapiro plays keyboard with The Hit Men and lends his vocals to many of the tunes. He has a very impressive resume` working with and for the who’s who of the music world.
Gerry Polci became part of Frankie Valli’s Four Seasons in 1974 and his was the lead voice in the original recording of Oh, What a Night. One of the very coolest parts of the show was when Polci was back on his drums playing and singing Oh, What a Night while his younger self was singing and playing on film footage right behind him. His drumming was extraordinary and heavily featured in solo on Grease is the Word.
Jimmy Ryan was originally lead guitarist for The Critters, composing the hit Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me. Ryan worked with many, many stars as lead guitar and vocalist over the years. The Hit Men performed many of the songs the musicians helped make famous by other artists including Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Elton John and a who’s who of boomers rock. It was a thrill to see Ryan get down on his knees to show he still had it on lead guitar. Smooth.
Larry Gates provided bass guitar and lead vocals for a number of the songs last night. He is also a great storyteller because he had great stories to tell, all five did. Gates is a composer and lyricist and worked with Janis Ian and Rick Derringer. He is best known for television jingles such as Toys R Us. He added his vast vocal talents to many of the numbers last night.
Rounding out the group is Russ Velazquez, my goodness this man has boundless energy as well as a deep well of talent. Velazquez is known for his work with Carol King, Sting, the Ramones, Luther Vandross, L.L.Cool J, Korn and Paula Abdul. He is also known for his work on Sesame Street. He had a number one children’s song 2BA Master.
The Hit Men are a very cool group of vastly talented men that have continued to work in the music business not just as performers but as composers, producers and arrangers. After retiring from The Four Seasons Polci went back to school and got his degree in Music Education and has been a teacher since 1995 in addition to his gig with The Hit Men.
Also taking the stage last night were three very talented local musicians, Hal Thompson, David Laubach and Jonathan Van Houten providing the horn backup for The Hit Men. All did a very respectable job and looked like they were having the time of their life on stage. Do I see a tour in their future?
The Hit Men will be in the Village at the Woodlands Auditorium for three more performances through November 7. For tickets call 922-4231, buy online at hsvpoa.org or stop by the will call table in the lobby and beg for an opportunity to see this non-stop good-time show.
The 24th season of the Hot Springs Village Concerts Association is not over yet. Remaining this season are Phil Dirt presents Surf’s up! A Tribute to the Beach Boys February 16 - 19 and Live From Nashville March 15 - 18. Become a Concerts Association member now if you’ve been sitting on the fence. But, most importantly, don’t miss The Hit Men.